No Money? Spinal, Brain Injuries May be to Blame, Study Says

Individuals who have survived brain or spinal cord injuries may end up broke in the bank, according to a recent study.

The increase of bankruptcy filings for survivors was unrelated to the actual injuries but was more a result of the type of insurance used by the patients, according to the study conducted by the Harborview Injury Prevention and Research Center at University of Washington in Seattle.

Bankruptcy rates were twice as high for patients with commercial medical insurance, compared to those with Medicaid, who had more than double the bankruptcy risk prior to injury. These patients, according to researchers, were uninsured before their injury and applied for the Medicaid program while in the hospital.

Researcher William Hollingworth, Ph.D, at the Harborview Center, reviewed the U.S. Bankruptcy Court Records of 6,345 adult residents of western Washington State, who were hospitalized with spinal cord or brain injuries from 1991 through 2002, to analyze how the injuries influenced the patients’ finances.

Approximately 3.5 percent of patients who had spinal or brain injuries filed for bankruptcy within five years, and there was a 33 percent increase in both injuries than in previous years.

Researchers say that the bankruptcy rate has more than doubled over the past decade, and the risk of bankruptcy following an injury may be higher, but they believe that most bankruptcies can be prevented by better financial counseling, therapy and rehabilitation as well as an improved disability and medical insurance for employees, which may help alleviate some of those financial costs.